Julia Butterfly Hill

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Julia “Butterfly” Hill endured 738 days atop Luna to stop loggers from cutting the 1,500-year-old redwood tree. Maxxam Corporation, the operator of Pacific Lumber, did their best to get her off Luna to no avail. Finally, after two years and eight days of residing 800 feet above the ground, Julia “Butterfly” Hill once again set foot on earth. Luna was saved and the bestselling “The Legacy of Luna” followed suit. Now, Luna remains to be a living tree and is yet to be made timber for houses or exotic sets of furniture.

Achievements

Why Julia Butterfly Hill is Extraordinary

Julia “Butterfly” Hill spent 738 days living on a tree she named Luna. No, she isn’t crazy or anything. She’s there for a reason: to save the 1,500 year-old redwood tree and those surrounding it from being logged for lumber. Two years and eight days of her life were spent away from human beings. Her protest spared Luna and other century-old trees in California from being cut down. The book she wrote about the tree-sitting she undertook, the longest in history by far, became a bestseller in New York Times. She’s now regarded as one of the most well-known environmental activist, speaking in front of thousands in behalf of Mother Nature.

The Accident that Did It

Julia’s life was all about making money before she got into a serious car accident. A year of therapy to get her speech back awakened her desire to make something of the new life she was given. Her journey took her to California Rainforest where century-old redwood trees stand tall. Amazed by their grandeur and beauty, she took it upon herself to fight for their preservation.

The Longest Tree-Sitting Protest

She volunteered to be a tree-sitter for an 800-foot redwood tree that’s been marked blue by Maxxam Corporation, the owner of the land and operator of Pacific Lumber. Blue means the tree is scheduled to be chain sawed anytime soon. Julia, an inexperienced tree-sitter, thought two weeks would be more than enough for Maxxam and Earth First! to reach an agreement for the redwoods’ favor.

But two weeks turned out to be a ridiculous estimation. Maxxam isn’t giving in unless they get paid for trees they are being told not to cut. To get rid of Julia, they sent helicopters to intimidate her. She was also summoned by a professional climber who went down unsuccessful.

Luna, the name Julia gave the tree, has grown dear to her and she wasn’t going to leave until she was sure that the tree was safe. When all else failed, Maxxam left her alone to the harsh weather thinking the icy nights would send her home to her warm bed. After one winter season passed, Julia was still perched on the tree—far from comfortable but still alive and kicking. They figured they’ll give it another year. No one in her right mind would stay up there that long for a lost cause, so they thought. But Julia wasn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, she’s acclimatized in her new habitat, not showing any sign of misery save being worried for the trees.

She’s getting more and more attention as the days passed until MAxxam could no longer ignore her. They settled for 50,000 dollars and agreed to donate the money to a school doing research on sustainable logging. When it was time to leave, she was hesitant:

“… I was leaving the best teacher and friend I’ve ever had. Also, the person I’d been when I’d gone up and the person I was when I came down were so profoundly different that I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to live in the world again. I hadn’t touched the ground for two years and eight days. When I set foot on the earth, there was a lot of emotion. There was extreme joy, because we’d protected the tree and the grove around it, which a lot of people had said was impossible. But there was also sadness. I had become so much a part of that tree, and it had become so much a part of me, that I wasn’t sure I would fit in with other people.

Though I left the tree, it’s still so much a part of who I am that I can just close my eyes and be in its branches all over again.” (Source: The Sun Magazine)

Once back on the ground, Julia focused on the organization she founded while up on Luna, the Circle of Life. It aims to educate people on how and why we should care for the environment. Her work for the foundation has brought her to different countries, telling the public about our responsibility in making this planet habitable for the next generation.

She was also key to the formation of Engage Network, What's Your Tree, We The Planet, and Activism Is Patriotism. In her free time, she writes poems. She published some of them in her third book, “Becoming.”

Because of her unwavering dedication to her cause, she was honored by The California State History Museum in the "California's Remarkable Women" exhibit and was the youngest person ever elected to the Ecology Hall of Fame. John F. Kennedy Jr. named her one of the twenty most influential women in politics.

What Julia accomplished inspired more to do their share, regardless of the scale, in protecting the environment. So next time you throw a piece of trash away or decide which product to consume, think about what Julia said:

"We throw things away, as if we think there’s a place called “away.” But no action happens in a vacuum. Every time we make a choice, it has an impact on the world. It’s just that we often can’t see the impact of our actions, so we think there is none." (Source: The Sun Magazine)

Top Reasons why Julia Butterfly Hill is Extraordinary

  1. She lived on a tree she named Luna for 738 days to save the 1,500-year-old redwood tree from getting cut.
  2. She wrote the book “The Legacy of Luna,” which became a bestseller, to further encourage those who were inspired by her historical tree-sitting.
  3. Aside from “The Legacy of Luna,” she also co-authored “One Makes a Difference” and published “Becoming,” which is a collection of poems and photos. She’s a poet!
  4. She survived an accident that fractured her skull and rendered her speechless for almost a year.
  5. She founded the Circle of Life Foundation and helped set up Engage Network, What's Your Tree, We The Planet, and Activism Is Patriotism.
  6. She doesn’t own a car since she was 18, is a vegan, doesn’t use disposables and brings her own utensils in restaurants, and strives to stay faithful to leaving as little carbon footprint as possible.
  7. She was imprisoned and deported from Ecuador when she joined a protest that would render many people homeless due to an oil-drilling project.
  8. She’s a proponent of tax redirection. She gives her taxes to projects or organizations she believes the government should be supporting.
  9. Several songs, like that of Chili Peppers "Can't Stop" containing the line "J. Butterfly is in the treetop," were inspired by Julia’s activism.
  10. She was honored by The California State History Museum in the "California's Remarkable Women" exhibit, named by John F. Kennedy Jr., in Georgemagazine, as one of the twenty most influential women in politics, and became the youngest person ever elected to the Ecology Hall of Fame.

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